Monday, July 09, 2012

First conning

To describe a typical atoll of the Tuamotus, just imagine a beaded necklace laid on a table in a circular pattern. The atoll is made up of motus (small, low lying, palm covered islets) linked together by reefs to make the continuous circle.

The atolls vary in size, some as large as 35 km (25 miles) across. Most atolls have at least one passage entry through to the inside lagoon. These passes have sufficient depth and width that enables boats to pass. Once inside, you are of course more protected and can usually find a nice anchorage in turquoise clear waters in front of a sand beach.

We arrived at the entrance of our first atoll of the Tuamotus around 10:00. We could not enter yet as the tide was too strong and the sun position was preventing the required visibility for spotting coral heads. So we drifted around with our friends SV Jabula who had arrived just behind us. Jordan caught a fish while we lazed around.

When the supply ship left the dock area at the entrance, both Sea Turtle and Jabula tied up to the concrete dock and went ashore to the village as we waited for the slack tide before entering the pass into Manihi's lagoon.

Tied to the dock

There are about 300 persons living in the village and about another 200 that live on the islets of the lagoon.

Local lovely ladies

We entered with me standing on the bowsprit to watch for shallow coral in spots (called conning) as Jordan was at the helm. I was a little nervous as this was a first but all was well.

First conning with Jabula in lead

We safely set anchor in the lagoon of Manihi (S14°27.881' W146°02.167') at 16:30 on July 8th. The palm trees were lining the reef shores along the beaches. Another beautiful paradise!!

The next morning, Jordan and I went snorkelling. The water was apparently not as clear as it usually is but we spotted several fish and the most amazing clams that I have ever seen in my life. Why, you ask? Because the opening of these clams was not a straight line, as usual, but was wavy (just like the giant clams) and they had the most amazing colours visible at their opening - some with vivid blues with wavy streaks, some plain black, some a purplish pink, some a golden brown... The blues were my favourite.

Colourful clam and drab sea cucumber

Afternoon activities included Jordan fixing our depth sounder that is very much needed in these low lying atolls. Then we went beachcombing and collected shells, dead coral, sea biscuits, etc. with our friends Bruce and Jeannie (SV Jabula).

We saw multitudes of black sea cucumbers in the water. We call them sea turds because that is exactly what they look like! Hard to imagine that they are actually living creatures. See the small one in above photo with the blue clam. We also saw a couple of octopus in the shallows which squirted ink and instantly camouflaged themselves when we got too close.

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